Bright spark techie knew the drill and used it to install a power line, but couldn't outsmart an odd electrician

Shocking problem turned out to be a frame-up

Who, Me? Welcome once again, dear reader, to the comforting embrace of Who, Me? in which Reg readers share their tales of times technology plans did not quite work out as hoped or – as in this case – the solution turned into the problem.

The hero – or perhaps protagonist is a better word – of this tale is a technician we'll Regomize as "Antoine". In the last decade of last century Antoine worked for a company that had two vital computer systems: a network of PCs running Novell NetWare and an IBM RS6000. Big Blue’s big iron ran the accounts while the PCs handled everything else like stock control, manufacturing, and sales orders.

The two systems were connected by a single RS-232 serial cable that allowed data to pass from one to the other, then to the sales team. Crucially, they also shared a single circuit for their power supply.

Now, any techie worth their salt will tell you that's a disaster waiting to happen – redundancy is everything when it comes to reliable technology, as is redundancy.

Rather than redesign and rewire the system, which was a job for another day, Antoine determined that at the very least this precarious rig deserved an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). With that precaution in place the rig would at least be prepared for and protected against a power outage.

The trick was that there was only one mains power socket in the room, right next to the window. Antoine reasoned that the UPS ought to have its own socket, for safety as well as other reasons, so set about installing one.

As mentioned, the existing power socket was next to the window, so Antoine reasoned that the power line feeding it either went up, down, or away from the window. It wouldn't make sense to bury a mains power line in the plaster next to a window frame, now, would it?

Here comes the boring part. By which we mean, Antoine got out his trusty drill and began boring into the plaster next to the window frame to install his power socket.

Doing so produced "a large flash, followed by anguished noises from all directions" as Antoine discovered that, indeed, someone would bury a mains power line in the plaster next to a window frame. It would have been handy to know that sooner.

As it happened, both the IBM box and the NetWare PCs went down for the count, and the boss was wondering how the two systems had been taken out simultaneously.

When Antoine explained what had happened, the boss thundered, "Well, what about that UPS you were going to install?"

Funny story …

Do you have a funny story? If so, we really want to hear it. Send your anecdotes and tales of mischief by email to Who, Me? and you may find your exploits brightening up a future Monday morning. ®

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